How Long Does Weaning off Formula to Breastfeed Take?

It is possible to go back to exclusive breastfeeding after supplementing with formula! The weaning from formula process takes anywhere from 2-4 weeks. With determination and a plan, you can wean from formula to exclusively breastfeed your baby!

These are the recommended steps to wean from formula that lactation experts suggest for a smooth transition back to breast.

Start by Establishing Goals

Consult with your pediatrician and a lactation consultant to establish a reasonable goal for weaning from formula based on where you are with relactation and breastfeeding. As I explain in this post (come back to read this one when you’re done here!) about beginning breastfeeding again, LCs (lactation consultants) advise to make the transition over a course of several weeks, decreasing the formula feedings as you begin to establish a healthy milk supply.

On average, moms who went back to breastfeeding said relactation took a total of about one month. So make sure you allow yourself enough time to reach your goal rather than expecting too much of yourself or your baby too soon. A Lying-In period is really helpful for moms that are relactating or trying to establish a milk supply.

weaning off formula to breastfeeding

Begin at the Breast

In order to effectively stimulate the supply-and-demand system that our body’s depend on to build a milk supply that matches baby’s needs, start feedings at the breast. Even if you’re not quite producing milk yet, the physical contact, coos and sucking sounds, and even the impatient cries from a hungry baby will get things going in the relactation process. After just a few minutes, if baby starts to get upset, go ahead and offer formula or expressed breast milk. Some women will produce milk quicker than others, but starting at the breast will help you reach your goal as quickly as possible.

Newborns and young babies breastfeed 8-12 times per day so make sure you’re tracking nursing sessions to reach this daily goal. I like using breastfeeding apps like LatchMe to track feedings.

Reducing Supplemental Formula Gradually

As your supply grows, you’ll be reducing the amount of formula fed to your baby. Lactation experts say to aim at reducing formula one ounce at a time. They advise to follow your baby’s cues and baby led weaning methods as you wean off formula.

Your feedings should look something like this in the beginning stages of relactation:

  • Baby cues that he’s hungry
  • Offer breast first and think milk! Do you feel a letdown?
  • After offering both breasts, give formula or expressed milk until baby is satisfied.
  • Repeat this 8-12 times per day/every feeding

When you’re producing milk, begin reducing formula. Your baby’s feedings will then look like this:

  • Baby cues that he’s hungry
  • Offer both breasts, allowing him to empty each.
  • Then feed formula or expressed milk, minus one ounce or until baby seems satisfied.
  • Repeat at each feeding, reducing total supplementation/formula every couple of days. (This is where one ounce reduction increment is applied).

*To clarify, you’re reducing one ounce of formula in total for the entire day, not each feeding. Aim to reduce additional ounces every 2-3 days.

Your mom instincts will help guide you as you wean baby off formula and back to breast milk. Be patient, read your baby’s hunger cues and remember that cluster feeding is to be expected at nearly every growing phase so don’t be alarmed when baby wants to nurse ’round the clock! These feedings are a normal step in relactation and establishing a milk supply. Make sure to browse the links at the end of this post for more information about those first few months of breastfeeding.

Increasing Your Milk Supply and Pumping

Lactation consultants may advise you to try to express extra milk and boost your supply by pumping. The more milk you (or baby) express, the more your body will produce!

But not all moms have success pumping, even with hospital grade pumps. And the experts agree, babies are much better at pulling breast milk than any devices we have available. So, there is certainly no harm in letting your baby nurse for extended periods and may actually boost your milk supply fast!

There are a number of other ways to boost your milk supply quickly. Sign up below to receive my full list of milk boosting aids!

    10 tips for increasing your milk supply fast! It's free!

    You may feel less confident at first with breastfeeding after weaning off formula. There will be ups and downs along your journey, but if you remain determined and prepared, you can overcome any of the challenges that await you!

    Weaning from formula to return baby back to breast is an extraordinary accomplishment that you can achieve using the right guidance and having reasonable goals. For more information on this topic, read When is it too late to breastfeed.

    Read Next: The BEST Solution for Those Hot Slides and Swings!

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